The Sub(Urban) Scene | Winter 2012


It Takes a Village: UmojaFest P.E.A.C.E. Center

UmojaFest P.E.A.C.E. Center

By K. Wyking Garrett, Max Hunter, and Thad Williams


Like rapper Tupac’s proverbial “Rose that grew from concrete,” UmojaFest P.E.A.C.E. Center sprang up in Seattle as a proactive response to the negative conditions existing in the African-American community. It’s already providing fertile soil to counter anti-social behavior, juvenile delinquency, crime and violence, incarceration, and pre-mature death.

P.E.A.C.E. — Positive Education, Art, Culture, and Enterprise

The P.E.A.C.E. Center was created in response to adverse conditions existing among African-American communities — including poor schools, concentrated poverty, and lack of effective social service interventions — which became prominent in the late ‘80s and throughout the ‘90s when the nationwide crack-cocaine epidemic hit Seattle’s historically black Central District.

Moving Forward

This winter, Max Hunter and Thad Williams, an educator in Seattle public schools, will lead a reading group to explore the genealogy of the critical and cultural pedagogy that inform the teaching practices and program at the center.

According to Director Wyking Garret, “UmojaFest P.E.A.C.E. Center Mission is to inspire and empower youth through positive education, art, culture and enterprise from our African-American and Central Seattle roots. 'Umoja' means 'unity' in Swahili, and the term signifies collaboration among community members in the African-American community."


Youth participating in the Center’s programs gain skills and confidence as young artists, entrepreneurs, stakeholders, citizens and leaders. The staff seeks to change young people’s lives through education, entertainment, cultural awareness, health and wellness, economic development and civic engagement. Core programs are: music and digital media classes and workshops; drop in opportunities; projects and initiatives; conferences, festivals and community gatherings; on-site counseling and referral services to link participating youth with educational support; training and skills for career development; and to support access to necessary human services.


On-site programs are further augmented by programs that range from the Seattle/NW Hip-Hop Leadership Conference to candidate forums and a music festival. Satellite programs at partner sites have included Garfield Teen Life Center, Yesler Community Center, and Rainier Beach High School.

Members of the center recount how the Center emerged out of Sunday work parties and BBQs to become a space for educational and cultural events and activities. The center has also developed into a meeting point for young people and those engaged with creating a better future for the community.


Today, the center has cultivated a unique mix of education, entertainment, cultural awareness, and civic engagement that connects authentically with community participants.


The Core Values of Umoja

  1. The UmojaFest P.E.A.C.E. Center is guided by the Nguzo Saba, the seven principles of Kwanzaa: umoja (unity), kugichagalia (self-determination), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity), ujimaa (cooperative work and responsibility), ujaama (cooperative economics), and imani
  2. We value the power of learning.
  3. We value the capabilities of youth and the accomplishments/achievements of our
    elders and ancestors.
  4. We value entrepreneurial spirit and action.
  5. We value stewardship of our natural and urban environment.
  6. We value having a safe and positive gathering place for all who want to participate.
  7. We value our relationships with community supporters and businesses.


Director of The UmojaFest P.E.A.C.E. Center, K. Wyking Garrett also heads Remix Marketing & Communications LLC. He is a founding director of Seattle’s African American Heritage Museum & Cultural Center, and in 2008, he was awarded the Martin Luther King County Executive Pioneer Award for Excellence in Hip-Hop for outstanding service to the community.


Max Hunter, Ph.D., is the Perkins Center teaching fellow, and has been with the John Perkins Center at Seattle Pacific University since 2008.


Thad Williams is working on a doctorate of language, literacy, and culture at the University of Washington. He has taught in the Memphis City School District and now teaches high school in the Kent (Washington) School District. His research interests include issues of race and language and how such issues present themselves in K-12 school policy, alternative education, and teacher-education training.


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